The UCSB women’s basketball team begins its regular season this weekend with a pair of home games, starting tonight with a game against Brigham Young University.
After two exhibition wins over teams in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, the Gauchos will face some tough competition, as they play BYU, one of the best teams in the Mountain West Conference, tonight at the Thunderdome before taking on USC on Sunday. Santa Barbara will likely be without the services of senior center Jenna Green for its first two games, so it will have to count on its depth – something that shined in the team’s first two exhibition games.
“[I’m] definitely looking forward to starting the regular season; I’m really excited,” senior guard Jessica Wilson said. “It’s time we can check out our weaknesses and point them out and keep getting better every game.”
Last week, UCSB played two exhibition games that each resulted in a blowout win for the home team. Five players scored in double figures and the Gauchos shot a blistering 78.3 percent in the second half in Santa Barbara’s 94-77 win over Vanguard on Halloween night. UCSB continued its red-hot offensive play in the first half of Saturday’s contest against Westmont, outscoring the Warriors 47-27 in the first 20 minutes and earning a 79-55 victory.
While Santa Barbara had spurts of stellar offensive play, one of the key issues in its two exhibition performances was its inability to sustain that kind of offensive effort for an entire game. Against Vanguard, the Gauchos trailed 49-44 going into halftime and were out-rebounded 38-36 for the game. In Saturday’s game against Westmont, UCSB out-shot the Warriors 69.2 to 39.1 percent in the first half, but cooled down immensely in the second frame, only shooting 34.4 percent and outscoring Westmont by just four points, 32-28. With the competition getting tougher for the Gauchos, maintaining a consistent effort for 40 minutes will be key.
“It’s very difficult to imagine beating a team of [BYU’s] caliber or USC [without a consistent effort],” Head Coach Mark French said. “Our first three games are against very good [Division I] teams and we’ll have to play well for two halves, not one half.”
This season, the Gauchos will be putting a much deeper team on the floor than last season. In the absence of Green in its first two preseason games, Santa Barbara got solid performances in the front court from junior center Kat Suderman – who reached double figures in scoring in both contests – and sophomore guard Ariana Gnekow. UCSB will be led in the backcourt by Wilson, who played her first game of the season against Westmont and chipped in eight points and eight assists, and junior guard Lauren Pederson, a transfer from UCLA who will be counted on to run the point this season. Pederson had an impressive debut against Vanguard, scoring 10 points to go along with nine assists and four steals.